Uproar as popular Aussie nudist beach faces 'unfair' closure

The beach near Byron Bay is set to be closed in April after it was determined the council no longer had jurisdiction over the area.

A well-known Aussie nudist beach is facing closure, sending hundreds of naturalists and supporters into uproar.

Byron Shire Council is set to revoke its 1998 decision to make Tyagarah Beach clothing-optional after a recent survey of the landscape by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) found the area sits within its authority rather than the council's.

"NPWS have confirmed to Council that having a clothing-optional beach within Tyagarah Nature Reserve is not supported by NPWS as it is inconsistent with values of the reserve that it manages," the Byron Shire Council meeting agenda for next week states.

Left image is of the Byron Shire Council sign saying 'nude bathing permitted (clothing-optional)'. Right image shows a Byron Bay coastline.
Byron Shire Council will be looking to revoke its 1998 decision to make Tyagarah Beach a clothing-optional beach. Source: Queensland Naturist Association Inc/Getty

After finding out about plans to close the beach on April 8 naturalist Bradley Benham started a petition on change.org, saying closing the beach on such short notice, "without public consultation" or without finding another location is "unfair". The petition currently has 624 signatures.

"Legal outdoor spaces for the naturist community are rare in NSW and this beach is highly valued by both committed and casual naturists," he said. "Nude recreation is a legitimate way of life, and the local community, interstate and international visitors have the right to some public space where this freedom can be expressed."

A NPWS spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia on Tuesday that while they do not support having a clothing-optional beach in this location, they will work with the community to look for other options.

"The NPWS will continue to work with relevant stakeholders to identify alternative locations for the activity to take place," they said.

Council has no jurisdiction over nudist beach area

Just 20 minutes north of Byron Bay, Tyagarah Beach was designated as a clothes-optional beach under the Local Govt Act 1993 — which is authorised with the consent of the person who owns or controls the beach.

At the time, when the beach had not been formally surveyed before, there was a belief that the Tyagarah Nature Reserve, managed by NPWS, extended only to the edge of the vegetated area, and therefore the beach area between the mean high-water mark and the vegetated dunes was council-managed.

After the recent survey stated otherwise — that the NPWS is the managing authority for land above the watermark on Tyagarah Beach — NPWS has told the Council that having a clothing-optional beach is not supported by it. With that support withdrawn, "Council has no jurisdiction to declare this part of the beach as clothes optional".

Reports of anti-social behaviour

Council states that after promoting the beach as clothes optional, the beach and surrounding areas became a "focal point for anti-social behaviour" with frequent complaints made to council and the police.

"While Council’s designation was not intended to promote or enable the anti-social activity, the designation created a “honeypot” attracting individuals seeking out sexual activity,' it states. "These activities permeated through the nature reserve into culturally and ecologically sensitive areas."

In the agenda, the council says the NSW Police are "resource poor" and do not have the available staff to "proactively manage issues arising" at this beach.

In 2017, Northern Star reported an alleged sexual assault at the Belongil end of Tyagarah, prompting other women to come forward on social media to share their experiences after being approached by "predatory males" on the sand and in the dunes of the coastline.

In 2018 a petition containing 86 signatures was tabled at a council meeting asking it to "remove the clothes optional status of Tyagarah Beach due to the ongoing prevalence of sexual misconduct".

Yahoo has reached out to NSW Police and Bradley Benham for comment.

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